A blanket of love

laurens-deken-11Last February we received devastating news. Laurens, the 5-year-old son of friends here in Amsterdam, had suffered cardiac arrest while playing hide-and-seek in the hallway of the hotel the family was staying in during their skiing holiday in Switzerland. CPR was given until the ambulance arrived and Laurens was transferred to a hospital in the mountains and later to a special care unit across the border in France. He was in a permanent coma and chances were extremely high that he would have suffered permanent brain damage.

A few weeks later, Laurens was transferred to a hospital here in Amsterdam, where the gravity of the situation became more clear: Laurens would never wake up from his coma. He was breathing independently, opening his eyes in the morning and closing them at night. His hair was growing and he had a wobbly tooth. But his parents could not get through to him — there was no reaction from him, nothing. They cuddled him, sang his special songs, read him his favourite stories that would always make hime laugh. But despite the physical ‘automatisms’, Laurens’ brain was too damaged. Even though his body was still alive, his brain was dead. He couldn’t be reached.

Laurens was in Ava’s class, and his older sister Sophie has been in Pim’s class since they were 4. We had known Laurens since he was a baby. The impact of the news was gigantic, in our family, and at the children’s school. Laurens was always such a sweet, lively, funny boy. He not only left an empty chair in the classroom, but his presence was throughly missed.

As parents, we felt so helpless. We sent messages of love and support to Laurens’ family, cooked dinner for them, tried to be there for them when they needed us. But, because of the nature of the loss, it was difficult to deal with our own emotions. Laurens was gone, yet he was still there. It was such a tragedy, it was so very sad. We needed a way to give all of this a place. So we gathered together, and made a blanket. A gesture of support to Laurens’ parents, a therapeutic way to channel our emotions. A reason to connect, share our sadness. An embrace.

This is what happened. We asked all of the children in Laurens’ class, his 23 little friends, to think about their friend and make a drawing for him on a square, white piece of paper. While they were drawing, we asked them about the special memories they had of Laurens. Thoughts we wrote down and gave to Laurens’ parents later. Then, we cut a white cotton sheet into 24 squares, and transferred the children’s drawings onto the pieces of cloth. We bought embroidery rings, needles and coloured thread, and then asked the parents of the children to embroider their child’s drawing onto the white cotton squares. The 24th square that we needed for the blanket was embroidered by Marja, the children’s teacher.

laurens-deken-1 laurens-deken-2 laurens-deken-4 laurens-deken-5

We organised two evenings where we embroidered together, and it was so nice to talk, to share our feelings. On the first evening Laurens’ mum (also called Esther) joined us, and on the second evening his dad, Marco, came. It was sad and raw, but sweet and good.

laurens-deken-3 laurens-deken-8 laurens-deken-7

When the embroidery was done, we sewed the pieces together and made it into a blanket that we gave to Esther to bring to Laurens. It turned out so beautifully — so much attention and care had gone into this blanket. A warm embrace to Laurens, from his little friends. A blanket full of love.

laurens-deken-9 laurens-deken-14

Esther told me that the blanket was such a lovely source of conversation in the hospital. A reason to reminisce about Laurens and his friends. It was so much more than just a blanket.


Laurens body slowly stopped working. His organs were giving up. He passed away one morning, early in June, in Esther’s arms, who softly sang his favourite song in his ear. It was peaceful. Sad, but beautiful, Esther told me.

I really hope that none of you will ever have to go through such sadness, but death and loss are so much a part of life. Perhaps one day this story can offer inspiration and consolation to you.

xxx Esther


Comments (20)

October 17, 2016

Such a moving story.What a beautiful way to honor this little boy.

October 17, 2016

Such a sad & moving story. What a precious & thoughtful gift.

October 17, 2016

Thanks for sharing. In tears as I write. One never wishes a child a die. How wonderfully lucky his parents are to have such friends at such a time.

October 17, 2016

Thank you for sharing with us such a wonderful and moving story of love and loss. Can’t stop thinking about those parents and their sweet little angel.

October 17, 2016

Oh my goodness, this story will not let go of my mind for a long time. I am terribly sad for the poor parents to have to endure such pain, but am beyond words touched by the community and how you all committed to create such a priceless gift for him. Kudos to you all to take the time and to be there for him and the parents. A rare asset in nowaday’s society where time for others seems to be insignificant. I’m impressed beyond words!!! ✨

October 17, 2016

In tears for his family. I cannot begin to imagine their suffering. Thank you for sharing i will show a lot more gratitude today and I hope in the future. So deeply sorry for your loss; and for his family.

October 17, 2016

What a great and heartfelt post, thank you babyccino for dealing honestly and openly with these tragedies. I think the blanket is the loveliest idea.

October 17, 2016

My dear friend’s 4 year old passed away earlier this year. I wish I had thought of, or been in the right frame of mind to accomplish, such a beautiful tribute. Will file it away for next time, and sharing in your whole community’s sadness. It’s so hard, especially as a parent of similar-aged kids, not to feel completely devastated by the loss of a gorgeous kid in such a sudden and terrifying way.

October 17, 2016

Though I have never experienced a pain like this, the loss of a child, even If , is someone elese’s, makes your own life feel heavier and lonelier than ever. Everyone who has tried to ” reach” Lauren’s have contributed to make an unknown and mute softer way for Laurens to depart from this world

October 17, 2016

perfection… what a sweet memory.

Lucy Woesthoff
October 17, 2016

I’m so touched by this story, thank you for sharing. The immense sadness and loss, but also the beauty of love and friendship intertwined in your words and present in every stitch in the blanket. My thoughts and love go out to Lauren’s family and to all of his friends. X

October 17, 2016

What a moving story and tribute to your friend. Thank you for sharing this.

Courtney in London
October 17, 2016

I’ve been so touched by your friend Esther’s story this year. From the incredible, unthinkable sadness to the joy she can find for her life going forward. This blanket is so special – I’m sure this family will treasure it forever. xx

October 17, 2016

I have tears streaming down my face after reading this. What a beautiful gesture. May sweet Laurens rest in peace. x

October 18, 2016

So sad, it made me cry that I had to write in and give my heartfelt thoughts to Laurens’ parents.

October 18, 2016

To Esther and Marco, I’m so sorry for your loss. A stranger in Los Angeles is thinking about you and your family. Peace and well wishes in memory of Laurens.

October 19, 2016

here in Canada, there is a strong tradition of friends of the mother-to-be doing a similar quilt for the baby, but Birth and death aren’t so different are they? I think this is such a loving way to send someone out of this world: warm, cozy, surrounded by the tactile love of those around them. P.s. This made me cry a truly ugly cry, so thanks.

Nina Justin
November 21, 2016

*My heart is broken* Life can be so harsh. This was a beautiful gesture. Hugs.

Anto Dalta
November 29, 2016

Such a sad and moving story. As a mother, I couldn’t help but crying at such a terrible loss. All my thoughts to Lauren’s family.

October 4, 2018

Thankyou for sharing your story of Lauren. A child should never die before there parents but unfortunately thats life and we deal it the best way we can. What a wonderful way to remember him by. Thankyou for doing what you created for a family in sorrow. I know its been at least 2 years since this thread was done…. RIP Lauren. My condolences to you and his family.

Leave a Comment